It’s patient safety day. If you go to twitter and look at the hashtag #WorldPatientSafetyDay there’s lots of interesting and valuable material that can be used to make healthcare a safer place for both patients and healthcare staff.

But there is one easy small thing you can do to have huge impact.

This year make a commitment to spend 5 minutes on one thing that adds to global patient safety.

You can definitely do it if you are a health professional.

You might be able to do it if you are a patient or a carer, but I hope you don’t need to.

You can report a suspected adverse reaction (side effect) to your country’s regulatory system.

We don’t know much about the real-world safety of new drugs and vaccines when they first come to market. We can predict what might happen from the studies that got the drug or vaccine licensed, but when they are used in the wider population new side effects might become apparent. Sometimes even mild side effects may be indicative of a more serious issue in other patients.

Therefore every report of suspected adverse drug reactions that regulators receives adds a little knowledge. That knowledge accumulates. And over time that aggregation of data can give a signal of possible harm. And that helps regulators keep us all safe by focusing where they need to look.

So if you take a medicine or a vaccine this year, please let regulators know if you suffer a side effect.

You probably won’t.

You might even think the side effect is from something else. But you only have to suspect, not be sure. And each one helps other patients by ensuring we know a drug or vaccine is safe, or alternatively allowing us to find a problem that can be prevented in others.

If you are a health professional, just reporting one of the many suspected adverse drug reactions you see a year will make you better than average reporter.

And it will take you 5 minutes.

Once a year.

Photograph: Photo by James Yarema